31 Aug Theater Reviews by Morna
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE (Hollywood)
We are in the New York City subway in this modern-day version of Noel Coward’s classic Brief Encounter and again here are two people, meant for each other, who can never realize the happiness it promises. Stephen Sachs has written and directed this extraordinarily moving play with a new approach: the eloquent man is deaf and the troubled woman hard-of-hearing as are the two actors. Their communications are all by signing and yet we hear their voices through other actors and their words by writing on the walls. By framing this against vivid fast-moving film of NYC crowds and scenes, Sachs draws us into that dynamic high-energy milieu.
Heading the superb cast are Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray, and there is an intensity to their performances that transcends imaginary characters. Bray’s Emily especially tears at our hearts. Married to a good but insensitive man, with a rebellious teenage daughter, her need for tenderness is palpable. Kotsur’s Sam is a teacher at a school for the deaf, who gives support wherever he finds need while asking for little in return. When he forms a bond with Emily he opens himself to longings and emotions he has held in check for years. Their final parting although anticipated (we all know the original story) has an impact that resonates deeply. The ever haunting – if only…
Adding to the intensity of the play are parallel stories, with Jessica Jade Andres and Shon Fuller (Waitress vs. Subway Cop) teasing and battling in their longing to connect honestly. Aurelia Myers’ troubled teenager searches desperately for love on social media. Brian Robert Burns is touching as Emily’s sincere but mystified husband, while Adam Burch and Stasha Surdyke are splendid in multiple roles. At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie) in Hollywood.
SCHOOL GIRLS: THE AFRICAN MEAN-GIRLS PLAY (Culver City)
If you think bullying is a problem in the USA, here is another view. Paulina (Maame Yaa Boafo), the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe Pageant. But Ericka (Joanna A. Jones), a new student with beauty and talent, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter and Paulina and friends gear up for battle! Jocelyn Bioh’s biting comedy explores the universal similarities facing teenage girls across the globe. Said Frank Scheck in his Hollywood Reporter review: School Girls is a ferociously entertaining morality tale that proves as heartwarming as it is hilarious. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. At The Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City.
PARADISE (Santa Monica)
This Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy is set in a Southern coal-mining town going from boom to bust. A charismatic preacher arrives, along with a sexy gal he rescued from a stripper pole! But there’s a Hollywood TV producer, with Reality-Show contacts, who has an idea of how to make the town great again. Music & book by Cliff Wagner, book & lyrics by Bill Robertson and Tom Page. Directed by Michael Myers. At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica (lotsa free parking).
HOLE IN THE SKY (Lake View Terrace)
This on-site experience is staged at a working horse-ranch about 15 minutes north of Burbank. A young woman returns home to find her family and community in a bitter fight over who owns the local groundwater during a devastating California drought. People are trying to live with nature, but nature doesn’t seem to want them there. Playwright Octavio Solis based his timely play on interviews in rural Siskiyou County. Directed by Kate Jopson. At Courtship Ranch, 11270 Dominica Ave, Lake View Terrace, CA 91342. Info: www.circlextheatre.org